Our commitments toward a more equitable theatre

Statement of solidarity and actions (updated Feb 8, 2021)

In 2020, the staff of Premiere Stages joined many in our community in examining our own responsibilities in dismantling systemic racism in America and promoting a more just society. We received a letter from We See You White American Theatre, a collective drawing from the insights and labor of hundreds of Black, Indingenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) Theatremakers, which led directly to many of the anti-racism commitments you will find on this page.

We recognize that we must listen more and impose less to help bring about significant change. We must shed our complacency, reflect on and strengthen our mission, and explore how we may learn and grow in order to achieve racial parity and dismantle systemic racism. We have initiated conversations with artists and organizations who share our commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility, and their insights continue to be extremely helpful and informative in guiding us toward increased engagement with BIPOC artists better serving our communities. Included with the commitments are updates on these efforts from August 2020 through Feb 10, 2021.

We commit to the following actions

To add a section to our strategic plan that is dedicated to anti-racism, diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility.

This document will contain specific actions with benchmarks that will be reviewed at weekly staff meetings and quarterly DEIA sessions. These efforts will tie into all of the work we do as we actively address the mechanisms for achieving the prescribed actions and report on their effective implementation.

Feb 10, 2021 / This section has been written into our strategic planning documents, distributed to staff at all levels, and reviewed within an anti-racism training seminar.

To acknowledge the Unami (Lenape) Delaware lands.

We commit to including this acknowledgement of the Delaware tribes in all of our programs, as an announcement at the beginning of our rehearsals, and as a permanent display in our lobby.

Feb 10, 2021 / The following acknowledgment has been included in digital programs for our outdoor production of Fannie Lou Hamer, Speak On It!, and all of our virtual programming events.

Premiere Stages acknowledges the stolen lands of the Unami (Lenape) native tribes. "Lenni-Lenape," means "Men of Men", but is translated to mean "Original People”. The Unami (People Down River) inhabited the central area of the homeland of the Lenni-Lenape. We take this opportunity to honor the “Original People” and acknowledge the genocide and continuous displacement of indigenous peoples.

To acknowledge the enslaved Africans in New Jersey history.

We commit to including this acknowledgment of enslaved peoples in New Jersey, the last 16 of whom were freed by the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865, in all of our programs, as an announcement at the beginning of our rehearsals, and with more information on permanent display in our lobby.

Feb 10, 2021 / The following acknowledgment has been included in digital programs for our outdoor production of Fannie Lou Hamer, Speak On It!, and all of our virtual programming events.

Premiere Stages acknowledges the enslaved Africans in New Jersey history. By 1790, New Jersey’s enslaved population, virtually all of African descent, made up approximately 7% of the state’s total population. New Jersey was the last Northern state to abolish slavery completely after the last sixteen slaves were freed by the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865.

Premiere Stages acknowledges the harm inflicted upon the indigenous communities and people of color, which inspires our commitments to address the injustices that have too long affected and compromised the advancements and contributions of Black, Indigenous and People of Color.

To more equitably produce works by writers of color.

A core element of our mission is to present professional productions of new plays and New Jersey premieres that are topical, socially relevant and address the issues of equity, inclusion, diversity and accessibility, providing contemporary perspectives to New Jersey patrons and artists of all backgrounds. We commit to increasing the percentage of works written by BIPOC artists to be more representative of our surrounding community.

Feb 10, 2021 / Of the playwrights selected for development since these commitments have been adopted, over 50% are writers of color.

To extend equitable hiring to directors, creative teams, teaching artists and production crews of the BIPOC communities.

We recognize that collaborators of color are valuable, regardless of whether the play they are contracted for is topically about racial issues.

Feb 10, 2021 / While our AEA agreement during the pandemic has been limited to one outdoor production in October 2020, we worked closely with Marshall Jones III, director of Fannie Lou Hamer, Speak On It!, to assemble a design team that was 50% persons of color.

To provide quarterly DEI Training for staff, advisory board members, student interns, and teaching artists,

as well as weekly anti-racism meetings for core staff to track our progress on these issues.

Feb 10, 2021 / We have provided one quarterly DEI training for staff and our advisory board, and will increase participation to provide more opportunities for student workers and teaching artists in subsequent sessions. We also hope to more thoroughly integrate DEI updates into our weekly staff meetings. Our permanent staff has participated in several external anti-racism trainings with the New Jersey Theatre Alliance and Yancey Consulting. As a program of a University, we are also collaborating with the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion to increase anti-racism awareness and programming.

To engage BIPOC community-based organizations as partners in the development and promotion of issued-oriented and topical works.

BIPOC community members will be invited to participate as panelists in post-show Q&A’s, serve as advisors in the creation of dramaturgical lobby displays, and consult on ways on which we can increase awareness of the important themes and messages explored in our plays.

Feb 10, 2021 / Our post-show Q&As for Fannie Lou Hamer, Speak On It! included conversations with Dr. Patricia Reid-Merrit, distinguished professor of Africana Studies and Social Work at Stockton University and creator of the annual Fannie Lou Hamer Human and Civil Rights Symposium, and Deonté Griffin-Quick Manager of Programs and Services at the New Jersey Theatre Alliance and facilitator of the New Jersey Arts and Culture Administrators of Color network to explore the legacy of the civil rights movement and equity, diversity, and inclusivity in the arts.

To develop culturally sensitive and inclusive curriculums for residences in collaboration with BIPOC teaching artists, and to provide compensation that is appropriate for these contributions.

Curricula will encourage the native or preferred language of the participating students.

Feb 10, 2021 / We look forward to implementing this goal when public health guidelines allow for a safe return to classroom settings with students.

These commitments detailed here are representative of more detailed actions being taken by our team, a full record of which may be made available upon request. As we continue to engage and collaborate with BIPOC artists and communities, our commitments on this page will expand and evolve.

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